India v England Test Match cricket preview
When England last toured India in 2012, they came away with a famous series victory, beating India 2-1 over a 4-test series.
That was largely courtesy of Cook and Pietersen’s batting prowess, Jimmy Anderson’s masterful display of reverse swing bowling and Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar proving that Englishmen can bowl on Indian dustbowls.
Unfortunately for England, only 1 of those 5 players is likely to be available for the forthcoming five-test series starting at Rajkot on Wednesday, and even Cook is not in great form having averaged just 22 during the recent series in Bangladesh.
The team that England beat in 2012 was probably a superior side to the one they face this series, which shows how much of an achievement 2012 was. Sehwag, Tendulkar and Dhoni are no longer playing test cricket and any international side would miss those three.
But equally, England are not the side they were. England showed severe frailties at the top of the batting order when facing spin in Bangladesh and they struggled to a 1-1 draw.
These struggles will not have gone unnoticed by the Indians. One thing we can be certain of, the wickets will be dusty, dry and will encourage the spinners from day one. England’s batsmen face another severe examination of their techniques (and patience) against high quality spin bowling.
Much has been said about the possible India whitewash (5.00 Ladbrokes ), and it can’t be ruled out, but England can put up a bit of a fight, and we don’t think it’ll be quite as one sided as it may appear.
That said, 1.17 for India to win the series is unappealing, but then so are England at 13.00 and the draw at 11.00. Betting on individual tests may offer greater value, particularly if India get off to a good start.
Remember, in 2012, India beat England in the first test at Ahmedabad by 9 wickets. But then England, boosted by tons from Cook and Pietersen, fought their way back and won the next two tests. It’s unlikely this time, but not impossible.
Look out for positive performances in the first test, particularly of Cook or Root start to look comfortable and bat for long periods. If they do, we wouldn’t rule out an England victory at some stage.
India’s recent series whitewash against New Zealand gave the likes of Virat Kohli, Chet Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane an opportunity to get runs under their belts. All three are class acts, and supported by Gautam Gambhir and Murali Vijay (Rohit Sharma looks set to miss the start of the series), it is a formidable looking batting line up in their own conditions. England’s bowlers will have to bowl extremely well if they are to be able to take 20 wickets in a match.
The key batsman for India is likely to be Chet Pujara. He was one of the few Indians to come out of the 2012 series with any credit, and is likely to feature strongly again. At 4.50, he offers greater value than Kohli and has both excellent recent form and a history of scoring heavily against England in his favour. Over five tests, the class tends to rise to the top, and the Indian number 3 is our favourite to top the run scoring charts.
England’s batsmen are set to face another stern test, with spinners likely to be either opening the bowling or coming on while the ball is still relatively hard. Alistair Cook has form in India from 2012, as does Joe Root when he made his debut in the 4th test in Nagpur, scoring 93 runs.
Both are absolutely vital if England are to come away from this series with anything. But it is England’s middle order that fired in Bangladesh and is likely to be the difference between low batting scores and respectable ones. As such, Young Jonny Bairstow is very good value at 9.00 to be top series run scorer. He will play in every test, which can’t be said for the other batsmen apart from Cook and Root, and with 1118 runs so far in 2016, he’s in top form with the bat.
The top Indian bowler market is not really worth a look. Ashwin will get the opportunity to bowl the most overs and is likely to be the top wicket taker over the five tests, but at 1.50 he doesn’t really appeal.
There is far greater value in the market for top England bowler. The spinners are likely to find the best conditions for their art, albeit they are facing very good players of spin. Moeen Ali is favourite at 5.00 and at those odds is worth backing.
Adil Rashid will take wickets, but he’ll also be expensive, so Cook may not trust him to bowl huge numbers of overs. Ben Stokes bowled superbly in Bangladesh and is in the form of his like at the moment. He offers variety and could be a real threat in Indian conditions. At 7.00, it’s a close call between him and Moeen, though we prefer the latter.
India are certainly favourites and warrant their very short odds, but don’t write England off too soon. They have class acts in Cook, Root, Stokes, Bairstow and Broad and if they can all fire at the same time, they could surprise a few.